Monday, January 30, 2012

Bartholomew Roberts - "Black Bart"

Bartholomew Roberts (17 May 1682 – 10 February 1722), born John Roberts, was a Welsh pirate who raided ships off America and West Africa between 1719 and 1722.

He was the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy, as measured by vessels captured, taking over 470 prizes in his career.
Roberts was quoted as saying ... "In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labour. In this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst is only a sour look or two at choking? No, a merry life and a short one shall be my motto."
On 5 February 1722 HMS Swallow, commanded by Captain Chaloner Ogle, came upon Robert's three pirate ships, the Royal Fortune, the Ranger and the Little Ranger. The Swallow veered away to avoid a shoal, making the pirates think that she was a fleeing merchant ship. The Ranger, commanded by James Skyrme, departed in pursuit.

Once out of earshot of the other pirates, the Swallow opened her gun ports and opened fire. Ten pirates were killed and Skyrme had his leg taken off by a cannon ball, but refused to leave the deck. Eventually, the Ranger was forced to strike her colors and the surviving crew were captured.

On 10 February, the Swallow returned to Cape Lopez and found the Royal Fortune still there. On the previous day, Roberts had captured the Neptune, and many of his crew were drunk.

At first, the pirates thought that the approaching ship was the Ranger returning, but a deserter from the Swallow recognized her and informed Roberts.

The pirates' plan was to sail past the Swallow, which meant exposing themselves to one broadside. Once past, they would have a good chance of escaping.

However, the helmsman failed to keep the Royal Fortune on the right course, and the Swallow was able to approach to deliver a second broadside. Captain Roberts was killed by grapeshot, which struck him in the throat while he stood on the deck. Before his body could be captured, Roberts' wish to be buried at sea was fulfilled by his crew, who weighed his body down and threw it overboard after wrapping it in his ship's sail.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Don" Carlo Gambino

"Don" Carlo Gambino (August 24, 1902 - October 15, 1976) was a Sicilian mobster, notable for being Boss of the Gambino crime family.

After the 1957 Apalachin Convention he unexpectedly seized control of the Commission of the American Mafia.
Carlo Gambino began carrying out murder orders for Mob bosses in his teens. At the age of 19, he became a "made man", and was inducted into Cosa Nostra. He was the brother-in-law of Gambino crime family mobster Paul Castellano.

Gambino rose steadily in the ranks and after organizing the murder of Anastasia became the new boss of the Mangano crime family, which was renamed the Gambino crime family.

Gambino secretly aligned himself with Luciano, Costello and Lansky against Vito Genovese. Soon after the Apalachin Conference disaster, Costello, Luciano and Lansky met face to face in Italy. Luciano came up with a plan which would get rid of Genovese for good.

In 1959, Genovese was going to Atlanta where a huge shipment of heroin was arriving. When he arrived, Genovese was surprised by local police, the FBI and the ATF. He was convicted for selling heroin and was sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.

With the support of Costello and Luciano, Gambino was named head of the Commission in 1962.
Gambino ruled his family and the other New York families with an iron fist, while keeping a low profile both from the public and law enforcement.

Gambino died of a heart attack on October 15, 1976. After leading the Gambino crime syndicate for 20 years, and The Commission for more than 15, he left behind a family with 500 soldiers, and he died while watching television at his home.

His funeral was attended by at least 2,000 people, including police officers, judges and politicians.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Enoch L. Johnson

Enoch Lewis "Nucky" Johnson (January 20, 1883 – December 9, 1968) was an Atlantic City, New Jersey political boss and racketeer.

From the 1910s until his imprisonment in 1941, he was the undisputed “boss” of Atlantic City and the Atlantic County government.
Atlantic City was a tourist destination, and its success depended on providing visitors with what they wanted. What many tourists wanted was the ability to drink, gamble and have sex.

The organization inherited by Nucky Johnson permitted the service of alcohol, gambling and prostitution, in exchange for the payment of protection money by operators. Support of the vice industry was to continue and expand under Nucky Johnson’s rule. He also continued other corruption, including kickbacks on government contracts.
Prohibition, which was enacted nationally in 1919 and lasted until 1933, was effectively unenforced in Atlantic City, and, as a result, the resort's popularity grew. The city dubbed itself as "The World's Playground". Most of Johnson’s income came from the percentage he took on every gallon of illegal liquor sold, and on gambling and prostitution operations.

Johnson once said:
“We have whisky, wine, women, song and slot machines. I won't deny it and I won't apologize for it. If the majority of the people didn't want them they wouldn't be profitable and they would not exist. The fact that they do exist proves to me that the people want them.”

Investigators charged that Johnson's income from vice exceeded $500,000 a year.
On May 10, 1939 Johnson was indicted for evading taxes on about $125,000 in income from numbers operators during 1935, 1936 and 1937. A two week trial concluded in July 1941, and Johnson was convicted. He was sentenced to ten years in federal prison and fined $20,000.
After his release from prison in 1945 Johnson lived in Atlantic City until his death on December 9, 1968.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Baby Face" Nelson

Lester Joseph Gillis (December 6, 1908 – November 27, 1934), known under the pseudonym George Nelson, was a bank robber and murderer in the 1930s. Gillis was known as Baby Face Nelson, a name given to him due to his youthful appearance and small stature.

Nelson was responsible for several murders, and has the dubious distinction of having killed more FBI agents in the line of duty than any other single American citizen.
On April 21, 1930, Nelson robbed his first bank, making off with $4,000. Nelson and his crew were linked to a botched roadhouse robbery in Summit, Illinois on November 23, 1930 that resulted in gunplay that left three people dead and three others wounded. Three nights later, the Tape Bandits hit a Waukegan Road tavern and Nelson ended up committing his first murder of note, when he killed stockbroker Edwin R. Thompson.
Nelson hooked up with the Dillinger gang and soon became nationally notorious and was made a high-priority target of the FBI.

After the death of Dillinger, Nelson was made public enemy number one. A running gun battle between FBI agents and Nelson took place on November 27, 1934 outside Chicago, in the town of Barrington resulting in the deaths of Nelson and FBI Special Agents Herman "Ed" Hollis and Samuel P. Cowley.

Nelson had been shot a total of seventeen times; seven submachine gun slugs had struck his torso and ten shotgun pellets had torn into his legs. After telling his wife "I'm done for", Nelson gave directions as Chase drove them to a safe house on Walnut Street in Wilmette. Nelson died in bed here, with his wife at his side, at 7:35 that evening.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Machine Gun" Kelley

George Kelley Barnes (July 18, 1895 – July 18, 1954), better known as "Machine Gun Kelly", was an American gangster during
the prohibition era.

His nickname came from his favorite weapon, a Thompson submachine gun.
Barnes was a bootlegger and armed robber whose most famous crime was the kidnapping of oil tycoon Charles Urschel in July 1933 for which he, and his gang, earned $200,000 ransom.

Unfortunately for Kelley the money was traced and on the morning of September 26, 1933, Memphis police, along with FBI Agents, surrounded and raided his hideout. It was said at that moment, that Kelley coined the phrase: "G-Men, please don't shoot".

Kelley received a life sentence and was moved to the federal prison at Alcatraz.

He was a model prisoner. In 1951 he was returned to Leavenworth where he died of a heart attack on July 18, 1954.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Al Capone

Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone (January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947) was an Italian-American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate in Chicago from the early 1920s to 1931.

Bootlegging, smuggling and prostitution made Capone millions.
Capone was widely seen as the man responsible for ordering the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, when seven rival gang members were executed in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. The victims were executed in a garage at 2122 North Clark Street. (then SMC Cartage Co.)

Capone was convicted on federal charges of tax evasion, and sentenced to federal prison. His term included time at the then-new Alcatraz federal prison.

In the final years of Capone's life, he suffered mental and physical deterioration due to late-stage neurosyphilis, which he had contracted in his youth. On January 25, 1947, he died from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Edwin Alonzo Boyd

Edwin Alonzo Boyd and his gang burst onto the front pages of Toronto newspapers in the early 1950s due to a series of well executed bank robberies and two breakouts from Toronto's infamous Don Jail.
Boyd robbed his first bank in September of 1949. He plastered his face with makeup and stuffed his cheeks with cotton to disguise his appearance. He escaped with the loot even though the bank manager emptied his revolver at the fleeing robber. Boyd decided to see just how well his disguise had worked, so a day or two later, bold as brass, he walked into the same bank and changed a twenty dollar bill with the teller he'd robbed. He wasn't recognized, so he decided to become a full time bank robber.
Between September 1949 and October 1951, Boyd pulled at least six bank heists.

While imprisioned at Don Jail in Toronto, Boyd met Lennie Jackson who had lost a foot in a railway accident and had a wooden foot in which he had stored several hacksaw blades. On November 4, 1951, Boyd and the Jacksons hacksawed the bars and went over the wall and escaped.

Eddie Boyd was tracked down and caught in bed beside an attaché case full of money, and five loaded pistols. Eddie was put in a jail cell with his two buddies. They became friendly with one of the older guards. As the pretence of a joke, one of the gang members grabbed the guard's key ring and gripped it tightly while joking with the guard. When he let go of the key, an impression was left in his hand and in short order they fashioned a key for the cell door and slipped out briefly.
When the guards were not around they hack-sawed a window in preparation for escape. To be able to fit out the small opening, they all went on a diet. On Sept 8, 1952 they escaped the Don for a second time. The biggest manhunt in Canadian history ensued, with a large reward for information leading to their capture.
Boyd was eventually captured without incident and was sent to Kingston penitentiary where he was paroled in 1962 after serving 10 years.

Edwin Alonzo Boyd died on May 17, 2002 at age 88.